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Orlando Sentinel

Ads In Spanish Are Sign Of Times

BY Louise Story

July 8, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Orlando Sentinel. All Rights Reserved.

National businesses are doing more to say Nosotros hablamos español ("We speak Spanish") to areas with large Hispanic populations -- and Central Florida is high on their priority lists.

More business advertisements, billboards and signs are being done in Spanish throughout the area as store managers and national marketers look to increase their appeal to Hispanic consumers.

"For many people, Spanish is their primary language," said David Bland, Washington Mutual bank’s vice president of ethnic marketing and advertising. "You think and you count in Spanish."

Washington Mutual advertises in Spanish in 14 areas, including Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orlando. A Spanish Washington Mutual billboard recently went up on John Young Parkway near downtown Kissimmee.

Washington Mutual, which offers nearly all of its banking services in Spanish and in English, is seeing the highest levels of growth in areas with large Hispanic populations, Bland said.

Other area businesses report success with signs in Spanish as well. The Kissimmee Wal-Mart on Vine Street hung Spanish signs about the store’s return policies at the beginning of this year, and store manager Yvette Miranda said she has seen an increase in Hispanic customers since then.

Home Depot also has internal signs in Spanish. Its store on South Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando is fully bilingual, with banners, signs and buttons on workers in Spanish.

"We have obviously a big contingent of Spanish customers," said Don Harrison, a national spokesman for Home Depot. "Our job is to do the best we can to communicate with those folks."

While Wal-Mart and Home Depot’s Spanish signs are only inside their stores, a few stores have launched advertising campaigns outside.

Budweiser billboards that say Yo quiero un Bud Light ("I want a Bud Light") can be seen across town, for example on the Osceola Parkway near Florida’s Turnpike.

Burger King now displays signs from its windows that say things such as Papitas Gratis ("Free fries").

Jeanne McCue, an employee at a St. Cloud Burger King, said she has not noticed a rise in Hispanic customers because there already were so many before the signs were added in the past few months.

"It just helps with the understanding," McCue said. "They are able to know what our specials are."

Managers and company marketing specialists said customers can expect to continue seeing the signs.

"There’s an underlying message we’re trying to get across," said Adrian Rodriguez, a national spokesman for Washington Mutual. "It’s one of sensitivity. People at Washington Mutual do speak your language."

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